By Peter Sewell
One of the greatest challenges I face when helping business organisations, is the lack of trust between leaders, management, and staff. Sadly, a culture of distrust is also experienced in many churches. Often the issues that contribute to a culture of distrust have been persistent for many years. In a conversation which I recently had with a pastor in Berlin, I was told that if trust was a currency, then Germans would be bankrupt. It seems a hard statement, however all the Germans I have spoken with agree that distrust is a major problem. In Germany’s history we see many examples of division, not only among the religious community, but also politically. The most famous examples of division include Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis, and the construction of the Berlin wall. Rather than exploring the reasons why distrust is often prevalent, I would like to focus on the benefits of being in a culture where trust is active.
The following list includes twelve signs that clearly demonstrate whether a church has a culture of trust or not. In my experience, I have found that these twelve points are seen working together. They are seldom seen in isolation from each other.
1. Everyone feels valued and appreciated
Trust creates an environment where people value each other. People should feel valued no matter how small their contribution is. In a culture of trust, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a member, what role you play, what your abilities are, or how old you are, everyone is appreciated and valued. In a culture of trust, people regularly receive praise no matter what contribution they make.
2. Members are empowered to minister spiritual gifts
Trust opens a platform to impart a gift into a person’s life. Timothy was able to minister to the Corinthian church because Paul trusted him and highly recommended him. In an environment of trust, everyone is more open to receive from each other. In a culture of distrust, excuses are created to discourage members from ministering their spiritual gifts.
3. People are willing to take greater risks
If people have encouragement and feel trusted, they are more willing to take risks. Most of the missionaries I know, and anyone who has served God outside of their comfort zone, have one thing in common. They may have been apprehensive at stepping out into something new, but they had at least one person who trusted and supported them.
4. There is a high commitment to serve
When people know they are trusted, they are more willing to commit to serving. In an environment of distrust, everything you do is carefully monitored, decision making is limited, and creativity is suppressed. No one enjoys serving in an environment where every decision needs to be approved by five different people, and where someone is watching over your shoulder 24/7.
5. There is a high level of productivity
When there is a high level of trust, people naturally achieve much more. Trust is not the only issue that affects productivity, but I believe it is one of the biggest factors. If people trust each other to do their jobs, whether it involves a safety check, a phone call, or scheduling an appointment, it’s much easier for them to focus on their own task instead of worrying about others.
6. Everyone honours one another
The bible instructs us to honour one another. One of the keys to honour is trust. In a culture of distrust, people pull each other down in order to justify their own importance. In a culture of trust, leaders don’t need to seek honour, they are given honour because they have supported, cared for, and believed in the people they serve. Honour should always be based on a relationship of trust, and never obligation.
7. Bridges of friendship are created and groups work together
Division within the body of Christ is created from a lack of trust. When groups trust each other, they are happy to share resources and time to assist one another. When groups focus on common goals and have a desire to work together, it is possible to achieve much more than any of them could achieve alone. Everyone benefits from long term trusting relationships.
8. Members actively seek ways to learn from one another
It’s much easier to learn from someone that you trust. When people don’t trust each other, the levels of conversation are very shallow. When the level of trust grows, people share more freely allowing everyone to learn from each others’ personal experiences. In an environment of trust, churches seek ways to bring people together to build relationships and facilitate learning.
Accountability is based on trust. When people trust each other, they can be transparent and share honestly with each other. In an environment of trust, people don’t hide their true feelings, they share them. In an environment of trust, people can share their mistakes and weaknesses, and in return they can receive the support and encourage they need to grow in their personal life.
10. Members can share their concerns and issues are addressed
An environment of trust allows everyone to share their concerns. Too often people are afraid to speak up and question the way something is done, or raise contentious issues. In Acts chapter 6, the Apostles responded to a report that Grecian widows were being neglected. In a culture of distrust, issues are swept under the carpet.
11. Members share their ideas freely
In an environment of trust, people are more willing to share their ideas. Even if the idea is not suitable, people know they are appreciated for their input. An environment of trust is always buzzing with excitement as people share ideas and work together. I wonder how many creative ideas have experienced a silent death because members knew that no one would seriously listen to them.
12. Members are equipped and promoted
One of the most distinctive signs of a culture of trust is the promotion of members. The Apostle Paul released Timothy into the role of an overseer, even though Timothy was still considered very young. A culture of trust supports and releases people to serve in order to facilitate multiplication. In a culture of distrust, leaders protect their roles, and withhold opportunities for others to grow.
Can you identify any of the signs in your church? What are some things your church does to enhance trust among members? Are there any other points you would add to this list? The framework has suggested methods to enhance trust which we are confident you will reap tremendous rewards. We cannot live in fear. But building a culture of honour is paramount.
To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you can download the Framework and Notes here, free of charge.
Please also share our blog to allow others to review and contribute – we need everyone, not just leaders, to play their part in building a church that others want to come to.
Peter Sewell has over 25 years of ministry experience, training church leadership teams, business and government leaders, and community groups. He is a passionate supporter of the local church and served as an associate pastor for 15 years. During this time he was involved in planting new churches, and coordinating cell groups, pastoral care, and discipleship. He has qualifications in biblical studies, business, counselling, coaching, and adult education, and is currently involved in training future leaders across Europe.
Copyright 2015 Peter Sewell http://www.churchexcellenceframework.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact us.